UPDATE: There have been some changes to the Brown supplemental essays for 2019-20. Get the details here!
Brown University requires four supplemental essays in addition to the Common App. In this guide, we’ll help you craft responses that reveal insights into your educational goals, your values, and your passions.
You’re likely pursuing an education at Brown because you’re deeply curious about the world around you. Even if you don’t have a concentration in mind yet, the first prompt offers you the opportunity to share the subjects, concepts, and questions that make you excited to learn:
- Why are you drawn to the area(s) of study you indicated earlier in this application? (You may share with us a skill or concept that you found challenging and rewarding to learn, or any experiences beyond course work that may have broadened your interest.) (250 words)
Questions to Consider: How did you develop an interest in this area of study? How have you continued to explore this interest outside of the classroom? In what way has pursuing this interest challenged you? How has it enriched your life?
Helpful Hints: One strong way to approach this essay is by starting with a brief personal anecdote that illustrates your interest in this area of study. For example, a student who is interested in Urban Studies might describe a time they met with their city council member about an important issue. After sharing your story, you can describe your background in this subject area more broadly, then conclude by sharing your goals for the future.
The first two Brown supplement essays complement each other nicely. Whereas the first prompt asks about your specific academic interests, the second prompt asks you to share what attracts you to the interdisciplinary nature of Brown’s Open Curriculum. Brown is unique in that it doesn’t have distribution requirements; instead, students follow their curiosity, synthesizing various disciplines as they pursue their goals. In addition to explaining why you’re drawn to the Open Curriculum, you’ll need to explain how you’ll fit into Brown’s community of scholars.
- What do you hope to experience at Brown through the Open Curriculum, and what do you hope to contribute to the Brown community? (250 words)
Questions to Consider: What makes learning rewarding for you? Why is an interdisciplinary education necessary for your career goals? What classes are you excited to take at Brown? How do you see yourself contributing to a positive classroom environment? Are there any student groups you’re excited to join? How do you hope to impact the Brown community through your involvement in these groups?
Helpful Hints: This Why Brown prompt pairs two seemingly disparate questions together. In order to answer both questions in one cohesive essay, you’ll want to spend time constructing a core message that explains how you’ll draw on your academic passions to positively impact your classmates. For example, the student from the previous example might write something like, “At Brown, I’ll prepare for a future in community organizing. In addition to taking courses like ‘Social Exclusion’ and ‘The Political Foundations of the City,’ I hope to mobilize my peers around issues that affect the Brown student body.”
The remaining two Brown supplement essays ask you to reflect on the communities and activities that have shaped your identity. The first prompt asks:
- Tell us about the place, or places, you call home. These can be physical places where you have lived, or a community or group that is important to you. (250 words)
Questions to Consider: Where do you feel completely at home? How has this place/community challenged you to become the best version of yourself? What life lessons did you learn through your involvement in this community? How has this community shaped your values?
Helpful Hints: The prompt gives you the flexibility to write about more than one place, but be careful! Your essay should not read like a list; instead, you should make sure that the places you choose to highlight share a significant attribute. Whether you choose a physical place or a community, you’ll want to leave the reader with an understanding of your identity and values! For example, a student who felt socially isolated at the start of high school could describe how she found “home” when she opened up to peers online as part of a fan fiction community, an experience that motivated her to become a peer advisor to incoming freshmen at her high school.
The final Brown University essay invites you to go into more detail about one of your activities. The key here is to show the reader something that they can’t get from your activities list alone!
- Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150 word limit)
Questions to Consider: Out of all your activities or work experiences, which one has taught you the most valuable life lessons? How did this experience change you for the better?
Helpful Hints: This prompt gives you a chance to discuss an activity that is personally meaningful to you. You don’t need to pick the most impressive activity on your résumé; instead, consider how your response to this prompt can add dimension to your application. Perhaps you are an accomplished Scholastic Bowl competitor, but being on the tennis team taught you to trust your instincts on and off the court. Or maybe you’ve been involved with student council since your freshman year, but taking art classes at your community center taught you to think creatively.
Taken together, the four Brown supplement essays will tell the reader a great deal about your academic passions, personality, and character. Happy writing!